Sooner or later, it may happen to everyone. Imagine that you are driving to an important meeting, and suddenly you feel that your car is pulled to one side and you hear the dreaded flapping sound of a flat tire. Unfortunately, roadside assistance-emergency service can't come immediately, and if you wait, you will be late for a meeting. What would you choose in this case, changing the tire by yourself or waiting for help from assistance services?
Knowing how to change a tire is a necessary skill for all drivers. The good news is that changing a tire is not all that hard. In this article, we will guide you about Items you need for changing a flat tire, How to change, How long does it take and Caution about the compact spare tire. Follow these steps in for changing a flat tire that will get you back on the road in no time!
Items you will need
Planning ahead will help you save a lot of frustration. Keep the following tire-changing tools in your car at all times whether you plan on using them or not:
- Spare tire: Usually located under the floor mat in the trunk. SUVs or trucks may have the spare mounted underneath or on the back of the car.
- Jack: This lifts the car high enough off the ground so you can get the wheel off.
- Lug wrench: This should be in the wheel well with your spare; this is used to get the lug nuts off so you can remove the wheel.
- Flashlight with working batteries.
- Gloves: To protect your hands (Changing a tire can be dirty and dangerous work).
- Flares and reflective triangles.
- Wheel wedges.
- A small cut of 2"x6” wood to secure the jack.
- A lightweight poncho or raincoat: Keep you more comfortable if you are in the rain.
The spare tire, jack, and lug wrench are vital and should all come with your car. If you have misplaced any of these items, replace them immediately. Remember to keep your car owner's manual in your car, as it will include details on where you can find your spare tires and steps for changing your tires.
How to change tires
Even if you don't know anything about changing a flat tire, 10 steps below also help you do it quickly and easy.
1. Find a safe spot
You are driving along, suddenly you hear a loud bang of a dead tire and realize you have a flat tire, do not abruptly brake or turn. Slowly reduce speed and scan your surroundings for a level, straight stretch of road with a wide shoulder. You should have a solid, level surface that will prevent your car from rolling. Also, straight stretches of road are better than curves because oncoming traffic is more likely to see you. If you are near a road, park as far away from traffic as possible. Avoid soft ground and hills.
2. Secure your car
Don’t endanger your life or others when changing a flat tire.
Turn on your hazard lights
Use your emergency flashers (hazard lights) to warn other drivers; this is especially important in rainy, foggy or other low-visibility conditions.
Set the parking brake
Apply the parking brake and put the car into the "Park" position (or in gear if it has a manual transmission) when preparing to replace a flat tire. This will minimize the possibility of your car rolling.
Apply wheel wedges
Block the opposite wheels before raising the car to prevent any rolling. Therefore, if the left front tire is flat, it would be a good idea to place the wheel wedges behind the right rear tire. Blocking the tire makes the car less likely to move when you are raising it. Bricks or large stones will be the good wheel wedges. Just be sure they are large enough to stop the car from rolling.
3. Remove the hubcap or wheel cover if necessary
If your car has a hubcap covering the lug nuts, use the lug wrench’s sharp end to pry off it. Some cars have hub caps with false lugs that secure the hubcap or are just for decoration. Remove the hubcap and set it upside-down as a tray to hold the lug nuts. If your lug nuts are exposed, you can skip this step.
4. Loosen the flat tire’s lug nuts
Lug nuts will need to be loosened prior to lifting a car. Start by using the lug wrench to loosen each lug nut (by turning counterclockwise) about ¼ to ½ of a turn, but DON'T REMOVE them completely yet. Use the wrench that came with your car or a standard cross wrench. Your wrench may have different sizes of openings on different ends. A correctly-sized wrench will slip easily over the nut. The wheel lugs are almost certainly very tight so you may have to use force, and that is ok. Use your foot or all of your body weight if necessary.
5. Raise the car with the Jack
Find your car jack and place the jack underneath your car frame alongside the tire that is flat. Check your owner’s manual for where you should securely place the jack. Follow these directions carefully because if you jack up a car in the wrong spot, it can come crashing down, injure you and damage your car.
Now it is time to raise the car. Most car jacks these days are a screw-type scissor jack, which means you simply turn the knob at the end of the jack, using the provided metal hand crank. Raise the jack until it connects with the car's frame. Continue expanding the jack. Raise the car slowly by turning the jack handle clockwise until the flat is approximately 6 inches off the ground.
FRIENDLY REMIND: Never put any part of your body under the car during or after raising the car with the jack and stay alert for signs of impending topple-trouble.
As you lift, make sure that the car is stable. If you notice any instability, lower the jack and fix the problem before fully lifting the car. It is always a good idea to keep a small jack stand handy in the car as well, in case the jack gives out during the tire change. Using both the small jack and the normal jack will keep you safe in the event of jack failure.
6. Finish removing the lug nuts & the flat tire
Now it is time to remove the lug nuts all the way. Since you have already loosened them, you should be able to do it by hand. Put them in your upturned hub cap where they cannot roll away for safe storage– you do not want to lose them.
Next, remove the flat tire from the hub. Grab the flat securely with both hands and pull it gently toward you. Be careful! It may be heavy. Set it aside safely so that it does not roll away. If you have difficulty removing the tire due to rust, hit it with a rubber hammer or use a liquid penetrate to loosen the joints.
7. Put on your spare & tighten the nuts by hand
This is the most physically challenging part of the whole process. You will have to hold up the tire and try to line up the holes in the wheel with the protruding wheel studs located on the brake hub. One trick that might help is to balance the tire on your foot while you move it into position.
Start replacing the lug nuts and tighten by hand (turning clockwise). To ensure the tire is balanced, do not completely tighten the nuts one at a time. Going in a star pattern around the tire, one nut across from another, give each nut a full turn until they are equally tight. Avoid using so much force that you risk upsetting the jack, so do NOT use the wrench until you lower the car, you will tighten the lug nuts again once the car is down and there is no risk of it falling.
8. Lower the car & tighten the lug nuts
Using the jack, carefully lower the car back to the ground fully (turning or moving the jack handle the opposite direction used to raise it).And when the car is completely resting on the ground, pull the jack away.
Once the car is securely on the ground, fully tighten the lug nuts with the lug wrench. Tighten the lugs clockwise in a crisscross pattern. Consult your owner’s manual for the correct sequence. Failure to tighten the lug nuts properly may cause the tire to come loose.
Note: There are different tightening sequences for 4- and 5-lug wheels. Tightening the nuts in the proper sequence ensures that the wheel mounts properly and that the stress is evenly distributed over the wheel.
9. Replace the hubcap & stow all equipment
If the hubcap you took from the flat tire will fit your spare, put it in place the same way you removed it initially. If it does not fit, stow it away with the tire when you stow your equipment.
Place your flat tire back in the wheel well (or wherever it belongs) and stow away the lug wrench, jack and any other stray items. Your flat tire might be an easy fix, so stow it in your trunk and bring it to a mechanic for further inspection.
10. Check the pressure in the spare tire
You should check the tire pressure of the spare tire and if you don't have a tire gauge, try to drive to a service station immediately to check and make sure it's safe.
How long does it take to change a flat tire?
Aside from taking your tire to a professional, the above procedure should not take more than 15 to 30 minutes to change a tire. Just be sure you do not leave out any steps.
Important details about compact spare tires
Note that these "space saver" tires are temporary spares; they have a limited top speed, which will be written on the tire's sidewall (usually 50 mph). Do not exceed that!
Because a temporary spare does not have the same handling characteristics and longevity as your regular tire, so use them only long enough to get home or to the nearest service station or tire store. If your vehicle has a full-size spare, there's no problem.
Have any other tips on how to change a flat? Share with us to help this procedure easier!